'Dark day' for Scotland as MSPs vote for abortion clinic buffer zones

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A Bill to ban peaceful pro-life vigils, including prayer and offers of help, outside abortion clinics was passed overwhelmingly by Scottish parliamentarians on Wednesday evening.

Gillian Mackay's Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) (Scotland) Bill was passed by 118 votes to 1 at Holyrood.

Once implemented, anyone taking part in a pro-life vigil within a buffer zone outside a Scottish hospital or abortion facility would face fines of up to £10,000.

The ban would exclude even praying silently within the designated zones. 

"Today's vote means never again should a woman have to be stripped of her dignity, privacy or emotion in opting to have an abortion. It enshrines her right to do so, and to do so without fear or intimidation," said Mackay.

"A woman's right to decide what happens to her body is no-one else's business but her own and that is the message being sent loud and clear across Scotland tonight."

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) said the ban would infringe on civil liberties and stop vulnerable women from being able to receive help outside clinics. 

SPUC General Secretary Michael Robinson called the legislation "deeply flawed" and said it "seeks to police areas of our private lives, which the state has no right to interfere with, namely private thought and prayer".

"By voting in favour of the Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) bill, MSPs have trampled on at least four European Convention of Human Rights and have introduced thoughtcrime into Scottish society," he said.

"Scotland has taken a colossal step backwards for civil liberties and has established itself as the most illiberal and anti-free speech nation in the Western world.

"This is indeed a dark day in Scotland's history."

SPUC said it is considering a judicial review into the legislation. It is urging people to vote for pro-life candidates in the forthcoming general election. 

"This devasting situation in Scotland proves just how vital it is to value your vote, and elect pro-life representatives,"  said Robinson.